• Vinyl

Liverpool's best record shops

The Skinny North | 20 Mar 2017

In Liverpool? Want records? You'll be needing to know where to go, then...

Whether you're a first-time visitor to Liverpool or a resident with money burning a hole in your pocket, as a music fan you'll be looking for the city's best outlets of vinyl (or CDs, for that matter – hey, your physical media is your business).

Here's our guide to the best record shops in Liverpool and Merseyside.

Record shops in Liverpool city centre

Probe Records

You'll have heard the stories, no doubt, and they put The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy to shame. Probe founder Geoff Davies famously had an acid tongue and was happy to heap derision upon naive young record buyers (sample Davies quote, as relayed in former employee Julian Cope's memoir: "No, you fucking can’t have the new Rush album. Where do you think you are, Virgin Records?").

Pete Burns also worked here, along with members of Liverpool bands from Frankie Goes To Hollywood to Walkingseeds and Mr Ray's Wig World. Probe was also once the launchpad for local label Probe Plus, who foisted the mighty Half Man Half Biscuit on an unsuspecting world. 'Embedded in local culture' doesn't quite do it justice.

Now firmly at home next to Bluecoat Chambers on School Lane, Probe has been supplying astounding sounds to the city's musically inclined since 1971, primarily from the various strands of rock'n'roll (indie, punk, garage, psych, experimental, metal... although jazz, soul, country, hip-hop and electronica also have an impressive degree of representation). This is your first stop for new releases ("on discs both large and compact") as opposed to second-hand stuff, but their array of audiophile reissues is also grand enough to lose yourself in wholesale. School Lane, @ProbeRecords

3B Records

Speaking of local culture, 3B is something of a local institution, specialising in house, techno, disco, nu-disco, soul, funk, balearic and electronica (although you'll find a smattering of other things decked across their shelves too, from classics to indie and beyond). Run by Freeze DJ and former Cream resident Jemmy, the shop was originally founded as 3Beat Records in 1989, before the record label of the same name (helmed by shop co-founder Jon Barlow) became a fully separate entity to the shop in 2009.

Know a vinyl-based dance music DJ in the city? Chances are they owe a debt to 3B in one form or another, whether through working behind the till or simply from having spent their formative years flicking through the racks and being turned on to new sounds by the informative, friendly staff. If getting into music is a partly curatorial, partly subjective experience then this Slater Street gaff has certainly put the hours in when it comes to opening the eyes and ears of its regular customers to a range of underground sounds. Long may it continue to do so. Slater Street, facebook.com/3B.Records

Dig Vinyl

Opened in 2014 as "a local response to the tireless talking down of physical record shops and the corporate commodification of music", Dig Vinyl has quickly become one of the city's most popular haunts for... well, yes, digging out new and not-so-new records. Located in the basement of vintage/retro clothing boutique Soho's, it's already expanded twice since its modest beginnings; don't bet against that happening again.

Although Dig handles plenty of new releases, and local ones to boot, the jewel in its crown is a remarkable selection of second-hand LPs and 7"s, providing sweet manna from heaven for crate-diggers (there's that word again!) and an excellent jumping-off point for novices. Better still are their bargain sections, with singles for 50p/£1 and albums that are frankly cheap as chips. As any dedicated record hunter will tell you, it's worth putting the time in to flick through the racks: there's gold to be found here, covering virtually every genre you can think of. And as of January 2017, they're also a record label too!

In the words of founder Anthony Nyland: "The future lies with independent shops like ours, with a real passion and a desire to promote music culture." Now there's a sentiment we can all get behind. Bold Street, @digvinyl

Cult Vinyl

Quite possibly the smallest of all the shops here, Cult Vinyl is more than deserving of a mention. As one of the many smaller outlets that moved from the former Quiggins market to Grand Central Hall (after the former's closure in 2006, during the beginnings of the Liverpool One development), there's always been something of an olde worlde feel to Cult. One of the last surviving second-hand record shops in the city prior to the recent, oft-talked-up 'vinyl revival', at first glance it looks like the sort of musty old place that deals in collectors' Iron Maiden picture discs and little else.

Still, spend a little time here and you'll realise its true value: this is a great place to pick up the sort of rarities that seemed so elusive prior to the dawn of Discogs and eBay... or to just generally flick through the racks and see what surprises lie in store. With a wealth of genres catered for, Cult is a hidden gem that's worth seeking out. Plus, you're in the city's biggest alternative shopping centre, with a wealth of other places to explore. May as well, eh? Grand Central Hall, Renshaw Street

Jacaranda Records

Where Dig followed, so too shall others... Liverpool has seen a gentle wave of new record shops opening in the city centre in recent years, and Jacaranda Records has arguably done more than most to make its customers feel welcome. Following a huge refurb of the city's popular Jacaranda drinking establishment in 2015, the Scouse music-buying public now have a new place to cruise vinyl on the bar's first floor, and they've taken the concept of 'try before you buy' one step further with their specially crafted listening booths.

Each spacious booth comes with a turntable set in a granite table, allowing curious shoppers to play prospective purchases through headphones, or via speakers set into the headrests of their seats. Food and drink are also on sale, whether you fancy a cup of tea, a beer or a milkshake, but the shop's proudest offering is its restored 1948 Voice-O-Graph – "the only one permanently available to the public in Britain," they claim – giving you the opportunity to make your own 5" record right there and then. 

Oh, and the music on offer's pretty decent too: local acts old and new are a speciality, but their selection of new and used records covers a multitude of excellent sounds and styles – "from prog rock to P-funk," as they say. So that's alright then. Slater Street, facebook.com/jacarandarecords

Pop Boutique

Yeah, yeah, we know what you're thinking: isn't that a place for fancy vintage togs rather than recordsOrdinarily you'd be right, but Pop Boutique have been smart enough to convert their basement into a veritable treasure trove for eager second-hand shoppers. Searching for that last Dave Lee Roth-era Van Halen album to complete your collection? Hoping to find a Jan & Dean 'best of' in decent nick for not much cash? Desperate to own some Ella Fitzgerald on wax – "you know, just to have it"? Chances are you'll find 'em all here.

It's another place that rewards time and careful browsing, rather than quick shopping – the racks here aren't in alphabetical order, so it's a case of shuffling through and chancing upon whatever takes your fancy. Still, that's the magic of second-hand record shopping in a nutshell, isn't it? Bold Street, facebook.com/pop.boutiqueliverpool

81 Renshaw

The newest kid on this particular block. You know what it's like; your favourite cafe/comedy venue/arts space closes down for a bit of a refit, only to re-emerge with a record shop in its basement. Yeah mate, happens all the time, doesn't it? Seems 81 Renshaw have been thinking along these lines, and they're now a place to pick up the latest efforts from your current favourites, as well as the back catalogues of Television, David Bowie, New Order... well, whatever you're into really.

There's also a wealth of disco, dance, electro, house, trance and hip-hop to be explored (as well as the intriguingly titled 'junk' section), so next time you pop in for a coffee and a slice of delicious cake, or even a comedy night courtesy of local promoters Funny Looking, why not head downstairs and have a browse? They even offer a record-cleaning service, so you can keep your discs spick and span. Renshaw Street, facebook.com/81Renshaw

Record shops on Merseyside

The Musical Box

Over in Tuebrook in North Liverpool, you'll find the city's oldest treasure trove of vinyl, CDs and cassettes. The Musical Box, as featured in Pip Piper's 2012 documentary Last Shop Standing, first opened in 1947 and specialises in "nostalgic" sounds – particularly country and western. Proprietor Diane Caine took over the shop in 1951, and will cheerfully tell customers of the shop's origins stocking jazz before the arrival of rock'n'roll while making them a cup of coffee.

Still, the shop's about far more than just nostalgia. Why not watch the documentary to find out more? Or better still, head long yourself! This is the sort of old-fashioned, long-running independent business that barely exists in 2017; a jewel in Liverpool's many-studded musical crown. West Derby Road


Aintree Vinyl Records

Not the newest shop here but hardly a veteran either, Aintree Vinyl caters mainly to fans of classic rock (of the 60s and 70s varieties). That's certainly not the extent of their stock, however; there's a wide range of genres lurking in their racks, and a mighty sale section with costs beginning in single figures. Rarer collectors' stock naturally reaches higher prices, but there are certainly enough reasons to get your shuffling fingers warmed up and your eye for a bargain nicely polished.

Open from Monday through Saturday, 1-5pm (you've got to admire their commitment to the concept of a lie-in; something you suspect their rock'n'roll forefathers would approve of), Aintree Vinyl is another important gem for Liverpool's music fans. But hey, don't take our word for it; here's another handy documentary. Warbreck Moor, facebook.com/AintreeVinylRecords

Defend Vinyl

Record shopping returns to Smithdown Road! Once upon a time, if South Liverpool residents wanted to pick up the latest releases, all they needed to do was wander down to Penny Lane, where No Quarter Records was housed (previously and quite reasonably called Penny Lane Records). It's nearly 20 years since that was an option, however, leaving locals with the diminished options of Oxfam's second-hand section or heading to town.

Well, no more! Defend Vinyl is relatively new to the area, but sets out its stall with a promised array of indie, emo, punk, soul, hip-hop and classics, both used and new, and deliciously priced to boot. It remains to be seen as to whether the vinyl revival will be a short-lived fad or a lasting phenomenon – let's see how Brexit affects manufacturing and import costs, eh – but with the help of a loyal local following, perhaps this venture could become as treasured a local service as the aforementioned Musical Box. In short: live near the Wavertree area? Support your local indie! Smithdown Road, @defend_vinyl

Our favourite record shop in Birkenhead

Skeleton Records

Open since 1971, and following several relocations during that time, Skeleton Records remains Birkenhead's go-to destination for new and second-hand vinyl and CDs, with more than a few nods to founder John Weaver's expertise in prog and psychedelia. Spread across two upstairs rooms, with newer and more collectable items in one space and less high-value (albeit still worth perusing) items across the way, it's a real throwback to pre-digital age record shops – in a good way, of course.

In fact, Weaver even remains dedicated to the concept of the fearsome record shop proprietor, as illustrated by Geoff Davies at this outset of this article. "If people come in here wanting to buy Rumours on vinyl, I won’t sell it to them," he told SevenStreets in 2015. "If they’ve not got it by now, they don’t deserve it." Certainly worth a visit, even if only to test the veracity of that statement. Oxton Road


Where have we missed? Tell us about your favourite record shops in Liverpool in the comments below.